The endowment of the Romanian army at the beginning of the 20th century was quite precarious, with numerous deficiencies in infantry weapons, heavy artillery, machine guns, grenades, equipment, ambulances, and so on. During the Second Balkan War (1913), shortages caused more casualties for the Romanian army than the fighting itself. The outbreak of the First World War prompted the Romanian Government to increase the budget of the Ministry of War, in an attempt to remedy the problem.
If in 1915-1916, the budget of the Ministry of War was 97.800.000 lei (16% of the national budget), in 1916-1917 it was increased to 115.000.000 lei, (17.96% of the national budget). Unfortunately, this measure was too little too late, Romania failing to significantly strengthen its military capabilities in the two years of neutrality (1914-1916). The causes were numerous: the importation of war materials was conditioned by joining either the Entente or the Central Powers; supply routes by land and by sea had been blocked; major European banks lacked insufficient credit lines, etc.
Despite the financial effort, the amount allocated was insufficient. The country then decided to use war credits to purchase weapons, ammunition and equipment from home and, especially, from abroad.
The budget of the army, supplemented with war credits
The first war credit, worth 200 million lei, was opened in March 1915. Two other such credits followed, also worth 200 million lei each. After the entry of Romania into the First World War (August 27, 1916), a law was enacted to increase the credit for the needs of the army to 1.1 billion lei and authorized the Government to further increase that credit if the need arose. The law which was promulgated on December 24, 1916 shows, among others:
“Art. 1. – The increase to 1.100 million lei of the 600 million lei loan granted to the Ministry of War for the army’s needs is ratified by the laws sanctioned by the high royal decrees no. 717 of March 11, 1915 and 1116 of March 21, 1916.
Art. 2. – The government is authorized to increase this credit again, with the amounts that will be required for the different needs of the army and of the war. The legislative bodies will ratify them after the conclusion of peace”.
This law ratified two other previously opened credits, in August and October 1916, worth 200 million lei, respectively 300 million lei. Based on Article 2, new war credits were subsequently granted. Between August 1917- February 1919 5 such loans were granted: 4 worth 300 million lei each and one of 500 million lei.
In a report of the Ministry of War in July 4, 1919, addressed to the Ministry of Finance, General Artur Văitoianu requested the supplementation of war credits:
“To date, the credit opened for the war amounts to 2.800.000.000 lei out of which the following expenses were made: 1. Ordinances made by the ministry: 1.627.054.660,36 lei 2. Loans delegated to active commands: 515.471.802,19 lei 3. Credits delegated to inactive commands: 642.482.911,25 lei Total expenses: 2.785.009.373,80 lei. Thus, the amount remaining available in July 1, 1919, when the accounting records were completed, was only 14.990.626,20 lei. This amount being sufficient for a very short time, against the ever increasing needs of the army and new debts, with respect we ask you to take the appropriate measures to increase this loan by another 500 million lei, to become one total credit of 3.300.000.000 lei”.
The Council of Ministers, meeting on July 7, 1919, approved “the increase of the war credit by 500.000.000 lei, forming a single credit of 3.300.000.000”.
A new report by the Minister of War, General Ioan Rășcanu, addressed to the Ministry of Finance, on October 17, 1919, requested a new increase of the war credit:“Until October 1, 1919, the credit opened for the war amounts to 3.300.000.000 lei, of which the following expenses were incurred: 1. Ordinances made by the ministry: 1.728.591.308,67 lei 2. Loans delegated to active commands: 752.309.877,74 lei 3. Credits delegated to the inactive commands: 720.562.911,25 lei. Total: 3.201.464.097,66 lei The amount remaining available on October 1, 1919 was only 98.535.902,34 lei. The credit provided only being sufficient for a short time compared to the needs of the army, in particular those directed at its organization and development, with respect we ask you, Minister, to take the appropriate measures, by completing the legal forms, to increase this credit with another 500 million lei, to become a total loan of 3,800,000,000 lei”.
The request was approved by the Council of Ministers on November 3, 1919. By December 15, 1919, out of the amount of 3.8 billion lei, representing the total value of the war credits granted, the value of the expenses amounted to 3.733.357.502,71 lei, of which only 66.642.497,29 lei remained available.
In a report addressed on December 23, 1919, to the Ministry of Finance by the Minister of War, General Ioan Rășcanu requested another increase of the war credit by an additional 500 million lei. It was estimated that the respective amount would meet all the army’s needs until April 1, 1920. In fact, the value of the last instalment of the war credit was 800 million lei. Thus, the total amount of war credits contracted by Romania amounted to 4.6 billion lei.
Translated by Laurențiu Dumitru Dologa